Photo: Paul ZimmerShingo Kunieda (JPN)
This week’s new world No. 1 Shingo Kunieda ended the men’s singles title defence of Dutchman Maikel Scheffers on Wednesday’s first day of play at the Australian Open Wheelchair Championships, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, while world No. 5 Marjolein Buis upset fellow Dutchwoman and world No. 3 Jiske Griffioen in a tense match as the semifnalists were decided at the first Grand Slam of the year
Meanwhile, top seeds David Wagner and Andy Lapthorne both secured straight sets wins in the first of their three round-robin matches in the quad singles and are set to meet on Thursday’s second day at Melbourne Park.
Kunieda beats Scheffers as Houdet battles past Jeremiasz
Five-time Australian Open champion Kunieda faced a tremendous challenge from world No.3 Scheffers in the first set of their opening match as Scheffers made a bold attempt to keep hold of his crown when snatching a first set tiebreak.
However, after reclaiming the world No. 1 ranking from Frenchman Stephane Houdet this week beat, Japan’s two-time Paralympic gold medallist dominated the next two sets to book his place in the semifinals 67(5) 61 63.
“There was a strong wind and it was a tough match, but I gradually got better from the second set,” said four-time ITF World Champion Kunieda, who will now play world No. 8 Stefan Olsson in the semifnals after Olsson beat Adam Kellerman of Australia.
Kellerman won the men’s wildcard play-off earlier in the week to earn the chance to make his Grand Slam debut and put up a good effort against Olsson, but the Swedish player eventually prevailed 64 63.
The all-French first round match between top seed Houdet and world No. 6 Michael Jeremiasz of France produced a fascinating contest in the blustery conditions that saw Houdet come from 5-4 down to take the opening set. He opened a 4-1 second set lead before Jeremiasz levelled at 4-4 and Jeremiasz then saved match points at 5-4 and 6-5 down en route to forcing a second set tiebreak.
Houdet took a 2-0 lead in the tiebreak, which he subsequently extended to 4-1 and Jeremiasz’s defences finally gave way as the world No. 2 wrapped up a 75 76(4) victory, having had three times as many break point opportunities during the match than Jeremiasz, but converting just once more than his countryman.
Houdet will play his doubles partner and world No. 4 Ronald Vink in the last four after the Dutchman ended the hopes of Argentina’s 18-year-old Grand Slam debutant Gustavo Fernandez. After a close first set Vink dominated the second set to beat world No. 5 Fernandez 64 61.
Buis defeats Griffioen as Shuker recovers to reach semis
Griffioen came into the Australian Open having moved up one place in this week’s rankings after her victory at last week’s Sydney International Open, the first Super Series event of 2013 But after a marathon first set against Buis, the London 2012 women’s singles bronze medallist made an early exit at Melbourne Park as Buis progressed to a semifinal against world No. 2 and top seed Aniek van Koot.
Buis clinched a first set that lasted for an hour and five minutes 15-13 in the tiebreak, and with Griffioen hindered by a series of double faults and unable to convert more than just seven of 21 break point opportunities throughout the match, Buis eventually won 76(13) 64 despite the two players finishing the match having won the same number of points.
“It was a nerve breaking match, but I am very happy now,” said Buis, who now faces world No. 2 and top seed Aniek van Koot in the semifinals following van Koot’s victory over South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane.
Montjane is the first African player to contest a Grand Slam wheelchair tennis event this week, but 2012 Australian Open runner-up van Koot cut short Montjane’s singles campaign despite a closely fought first set and went on to win 75 61.
The other women’s singles semifinal will see Britain’s world No 8 Lucy Shuker take on world No. 3 Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany.
Shuker reached her first Australian Open women’s singles semifinal after recovering from a slow start against Australia’s former world No. 1 Daniela di Toro. Di Toro secured a double break to take the opening set, but Shuker had the edge in both of the next two sets to complete a 26 64 64 victory after an hour and 53 minutes.
Meanwhile, Ellerbrock reached the semifinals in Melbourne for the second successive year after defeating Dutch world No. 8 Sharon Walraven
Ellerbrock earned an immediate break against Walraven as she eased to the first set and moved 5-2 ahead in the second set before having three match points at 5-2 up and taking her second opportunity to close out a 62 63 victory.
Wagner and Lapthorne earn early wins
Either Wagner or Lapthorne will end Thursday’s second day of play in Melbourne with two wins after both got their Australian Open campaigns off to a solid start.
Sweden’s world No. 5 Anders Hard made a confident start to his first match at a Grand Slam in his round-robin match against Wagner, but Wagner then found his game and reeled off the next six games, serving out the first set to love.
Hard came back from 3-0 down in the second set to draw level with Wagner, but world No. 1 Wagner regained the momentum and sealed a 62 63 victory ahead of meeting world No. 4 Lapthorne on Thursday.
Lapthorne came from 2-1 down to lead 5-3 against world No. 6 Nick Taylor in the first set of their opening match, but the Briton was unable to take advantage of set points at 5-4 up and then had to come from behind again to force a tiebreak. Taylor took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak, but a determined Lapthorne dug deep to come from 5-1 down to take the set. Lapthorne then built on an early break in the second set to seal his 76(5) 62 victory
"It wasn't my best today, but a win is a win,” said Lapthorne after earning his fourth successive career win over Taylor and bringing their career head-to-head level at 4-4.
Order of Play - Thursday, 24 January 2013
Men's Singles Draw
Women's Singles Draw
Quad Singles Draw
Men's Doubles Draw
Women's Doubles Draw
Quad Doubles Draw